Lake Tahoe keeps making headlines in 2015, and not just because of the California drought. After Squaw Valley announced plans for a new base-to-base gondola connecting Squaw and its neighboring resort Alpine Meadows, the interwebs went crazy with discussions over whether the proposed gondola was awesome or potentially the worst idea ever. And while Squaw Valley is certainly no stranger to controversy (just ask anyone about the Squaw Base Village or about Incorporate Olympic Valley), the latest debate has been fierce. That's why Curbed Ski decided to break down the proposed plan and ask readers to weigh in. We were expecting a divisive response and that's exactly what we got.
In total, 446 people voted in our straw poll and a slight majority, 55 percent, voted that they are not in favor of the Squaw-Alpine Gondola. The comment section shows just how deeply divided skiers are on the project. Some readers called the gondola an "environmental disaster," while others praised it as a "good plan."
The most divisive issue at hand is how the gondola will impact the Granite Chief Wilderness Area. As we explained last week, the nonprofit group Sierra Watch argues that the gondola will go through the eastern corner of the Wilderness Area. Sierra Watch doesn't dispute that the land in question is privately owned and therefore falls outside of USFS jurisdiction. Sierra Watch's Executive Director Tom Mooers argues instead that it's "an issue of values."
Meanwhile, since our poll ran, an editorial appeared in the Tahoe Daily Tribune aiming to "clear up" the Squaw-Alpine gondola confusion. Troy Caldwell, the owner of a 460-acre parcel of land known as White Wolf that's located between Squaw Valley and Alpine Meadows, has a vested interest in making the gondola connection happen.
According to Caldwell, "There has been some confusion regarding the designation of the private land I own. It is important to note that the U.S. Forest Service has always recognized, and currently recognizes the property is, and remains, private land.
Although my property lies on the edge of the designated Wilderness, because it is private land, it is not administered as part of the Granite Chief Wilderness, does not carry a Wilderness designation that would make it subject to the constraints of the Wilderness Act, and is not under the jurisdiction of the U.S. Forest Service."
Unofficial Alpine just ran a good rebuttal of Caldwell's claims. It seems that while Caldwell may be correct that the USFS cannot enforce the protections offered by the Wildnerness Act on private land, his latest statements don't recognize that a portion of the gondola will operate within the mapped boundary of the Granite Chief Wildnerness Area.
Far from providing clarity on the issue, things remain as convoluted as ever.
Curious as to the other reasons skiers and snowboarders are opposed to the gondola? Mark Fisher from Unofficial Alpine has a good synopsis.
So where does that leave us? Honestly, if the delays encountered during the expansion of Homewood Mountain Resort or even Squaw Valley's Base Village are any indication, the Squaw-Alpine Gondola is going to take a while. We expect a multi-year fight on this one.
· Opinion: Clearing up confusion over potential Squaw-Alpine gondola [TDT]
· Curbed.com Tackles the Gondola Issue [Unofficial Alpine]
· Vote Now: Yay or Nay on the Squaw-Alpine Gondola? [Curbed Ski]
· The Results Are In On Olympic Valley and Incorporation [Curbed Ski]
· Squaw Valley CEO Comes Out Against Olympic Valley [Curbed Ski]